The Burn

Burning Seed Festival, Matong State Forest, 2-8 Oct, 2013

Travelling west from Canberra out towards Matong State Forest, one cannot but be impressed by what must be a bumper cropping season in the Riverina. Mile after identical mile of gently rolling canola and grain oceans, waving in the breeze, incredibly uniform in growth habit, plush green and yellow carpet tiles from one horizon to the next.

And all of it destined for processing in the enormous granaries that are the other remarkable feature of the landscape. Massive cylindrical silos and improbably gargantuan tin sheds loom above every little burg along the train line. This is the infrastructure of industrial agriculture that, in years like these, must produce untold wealth for some (as well as feeding millions of people), but which, if casual observations are anything to go by, seems to impoverish the region in most of the ways that matter. Admittedly it was a school holiday weekend, but crikey, these places are like ghost towns. Scarily tidy, spartan gardens and well kempt houses betray no signs of actual habitation. Matong itself, the gateway to the eponymous State Forest, could easily have been the set for The Last Picture Show, as eerie as the neutron bomb, as lonely as a junk yard dog.

And nature, and any sign of the original, Aboriginal inhabitants, have both been seemingly erased, extinguished, bulldozed under monocultures of crops, cars, cows, footy, Indian Mynas… There isn’t even any roadkill out there. The local lad we met, when we eventually made it to Burning Seed, said he was just happy to be out and having nobody pick him for a fight, a first apparently. He was probably also happy with the occasional casual nudity, a rare enough occurrence for him I’m sure. The contrast with sleepy Matong could hardly be more pronounced.

Yes, nudity was casual, sometimes provocative, there was some random public sex, a couple of kissing booths, a ‘feel me’ box, a vagazzling (and cockazzling?) workshop, there was, in short, a general sense of licentiousness and freedom to express your sexhibitionist tendencies, but that would hardly be the dominant aspect of Burning Seed. That would have to be electronic music, which blared almost incessantly, at not quite ear-splitting levels, from all 17 or so ‘venues’ dotted around the circular festival site. There were, to be sure, many other activities, and occasional glimpses of other types of music. But the doof/oonst won in the end.

Besides the price of the ticket, the cost of food we took, and one $4 bag of ice, which was the only thing you could legitimately buy there, we spent no money throughout the four or so days, and received freely given: home made beer, a glass of punch, um, a bunch of stuff I forget, and we could have enjoyed a lot more free stuff if we’d bothered to get the right time/place thing happening. Our neighbours offered free burritos every morning for example. But we were happy sleeping in or tooling around on the three-wheeler at random.

It was great to be at a festival and have no responsibilities whatsoever. We slept quite well, despite the incessant howling din of multiple sound systems. We had a bit of a jam at the Irish people’s camp. Those lads did Ireland proud in the heavy drinking and carousing stakes. The toilets occasionally got backed up but municipal services were generally ok. And milling about naked around the still fiery remains of the Burning Woman, in a glorious evening breeze, with maybe 600 others, naked and clothed, was exhilarating indeed.

To sum up, Burning Seed was fun and diverting for a few days. It could do with one venue dedicated to non-electronic music. It is not for the easily offended, for the sensitive-eared, for people who need to bathe daily (tho one morning a young girl in the adjacent camp-site enjoyed a sponge bath from a young man so it can be done) nor for those who hate hippies. At 1,000 participants, it had some critical mass without being a hassle. And, if you’re thinking of going next year, put some thought into having something, food, beverage, performance, event, artwork or whatever to contribute.


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